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PIP breast implant boss Jean-Claude Mas set to appeal after court jails him

Court rules that the French businessman who sold tens of thousands of faulty silicone breast implants around the world is guilty of fraud

John Lichfield
Tuesday 10 December 2013 11:52 GMT
Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) founder Jean-Claude Mas (left) leaves the courthouse with his French lawyer Yves Haddad
Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) founder Jean-Claude Mas (left) leaves the courthouse with his French lawyer Yves Haddad (Getty Images)

The head of the French company which flooded the world with defective breast implants was given a four year jail sentence on Tuesday but escaped immediate imprisonment by lodging an appeal.

Jean-Claude Mas, 74, was found guilty of "serious fraud" by a court in Marseille in the south of France in a judgement delayed after a month-long trial in April and May. Three other company executives were given shorter jail terms and a fourth was given a suspended sentence.

Mr Mas, who had denied using substandard silicon at the trial, was also fined €75,000 and banned for life from any activity connected with heath.

The court also ruled that a giant German standards and product-testing company, TÜV Rheinland, was also a "victim" of fraud by PIP. This judgement could call into question a ruling by a French civil court last month that TÜV had failed to check the quality of PIP products and should therefore pay damages to victims - potentially up to €6bn worldwide.

This part of the ruling, and the fact that Mr Mas escaped jail for the time being, disappointed dozens of victims who travelled to Marseille for the judgement.

Jan Spivey, a British woman who received PIP implants after undergoing a mastectomy for breast cancer in 2002, said "I thought (Mas) was going to be taken away in a vehicle today and we wouldn't see him again."

"Many, many women are still living with ruptured PIP in Britain, which I think is completely unacceptable," Ms Spivey told AP. "Women have got to be respected. They should have their dignity and they should have been treated accordingly from the beginning."

The PIP trial broke judicial records win France with 7,113 civil plaintiffs from 71 countries, including hundreds from Britain. Tuesday's written judgement, including the transcript of the trial, ran to 7,945 pages.

Mr Mas was accused of knowingly substituting an inferior, industrial grade of silicon in three quarters of  his breast implants fitted to 400,000 women all over the world. Up to a quarter of the PIP implants burst or leaked, according to a French study. Allegations that the leaking silicon could cause cancer or other medical complications have not been substantiated but lawyers said that the full effects may not be known for many years. A UK report concluded that the implants were not carcinogenic or otherwise a long-term threat to health.

The vast majority of the implants were fitted for cosmetic reasons. Some were used for breast reconstruction after cancer surgery. The French government has offered to pay to replace all PIP implants. The British government has offered to pay only for those originally fitted for medical reasons.

The former financial director of Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) in Toulon, Claude Couty, was jailed for three years and fined €30,000. Two other exceutives, Hannelore Font and Loïc Gossard, were given two year sentences.

Thierry Brinon, the only defendant to admit the charges, was given an 18-month suspended jail term. Mr Brinon told the trial that the use of a substandrad, industrial silicon - saving €10 on each implant - had become "an in-house lie, which became part of our company culture".

In his summing up in May, the state prosecutor, Jacques Dalles, said that the accused had "betrayed" their customers. "You must reflect in a prison cell on this sad commercial saga which has caused so many victims," he said.

Last month, in a landmark hearing in a completely separate civil case, a French commercial court opened the way to millions of euros in compensation for British and other women who were fitted with PIP implants.

The court in Toulon ruled that TÜV, which certified the sub-standard implants, shared responsibility with now-defunct PIP. Over 1,600 women, including about 100 from Britain, were awarded €3,000 in interim damages.

TÜV have appealed and will base their case on Tuesday's ruling that they also were "victims" of fraud by PIP and Mr Mas.

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